Her sensations and thoughts were so persistent that she could not measure the hours, and it was a surprise to her when the nurse put out the candle, and let in the faint morning light. Mrs. Raynor, anxious about Janet, was already up, and now brought in some fresh coffee for her; and Mr. Pilgrim having awaked, had hurried on his clothes, and was coming in to see how Dempster was.
This change from candle-light to morning, this recommencement of the same round of things that had happened yesterday, was a discouragement rather than a relief to Janet. She was more conscious of her chill weariness: the new light thrown on her husband’s face seemed to reveal the still work that death had been doing through the night; she felt her last lingering hope that he would ever know her again forsake her.
But now, Mr. Pilgrim, having felt the pulse, was putting some brandy in a tea-spoon between Dempster’s lips; the brandy went down, and his breathing became freer. Janet noticed the change, and her heart beat faster as she leaned forward to watch him. Suddenly a slight movement, like the passing away of a shadow, was visible in his face, and he opened his eyes full on Janet. It was almost like meeting him again on the resurrection morning, after the night of the grave.
‘Robert, do you know me?’
He kept his eyes fixed on her, and there was a faintly perceptible motion of the lips, as if he wanted to speak.
But the moment of speech was for ever gone—the moment for asking pardon of her, if he wanted to ask it. Could he read the full forgiveness that was written in her eyes? She never knew; for, as she was bending to kiss him, the thick veil of death fell between them, and her lips touched a corpse.
The faces looked very hard and unmoved that surrounded Dempster’s grave, while old Mr. Crewe read the burial-service in his low, broken voice. The pall-bearers were such men as Mr. Pittman, Mr. Lowme, and Mr. Budd—men whom Dempster had called his friends while he was in life; and worldly faces never look so worldly as at a funeral. They have the same effect of grating incongruity as the sound of a coarse voice breaking the solemn silence of night.
The one face that had sorrow in it was covered by a thick crape-veil, and the sorrow was suppressed and silent. No one knew how deep it was; for the thought in most of her neighbours’ minds was, that Mrs. Dempster could hardly have had better fortune than to lose a bad husband who had left her the compensation of a good income. They found it difficult to conceive that her husband’s death could be felt by her otherwise than as a deliverance. The person who was most thoroughly convinced that Janet’s grief was deep and real, was Mr. Pilgrim, who in general was not at all weakly given to a belief in disinterested feeling.
‘That woman has a tender heart,’ he was frequently heard to observe in his morning rounds about this time. ’I used to think there was a great deal of palaver in her, but you may depend upon it there’s no pretence about her. If he’d been the kindest husband in the world she couldn’t have felt more. There’s a great deal of good in Mrs. Dempster—a great deal of good.’